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cambridge, massachusetts is the second largest nerd city. berkeley came in at number four and santa clara is at number five. what time is the dinner break? want to have dinner in clara? a?ar more local news on the bear area at 6:00. we'll see you then. lt by u.s. warplanes intensifies. a defiant gadhafi warns of a crusader war and vows to fight back. crusader war and vows to fight back. tonight, what is the endgame? captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening, everyone. the pentagon tonight says the allied assault on libya's military has inflicted heavy damage on moammar gadhafi's forces and grounded his combat planes. that assault, which we now know is being led by american
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warplanes, including long-range stealth bombers, has targeted both libya's air defenses and ground troops in an effort to halt gadhafi's attacks on anti-government rebels. but coalition officials insist gadhafi himself is not a target. tonight, as anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies over tripoli, libya's military command order claimed again it wasrding its units to observe is i cease-fire, a claim western forces are skeptical of. we begin tonight with jim miklaszewski. jim? >> reporter: lester, there's only been one full day of american and coalition air strikes against libya, but senior u.s. military officials are already declaring the no-fly zone a success. but there could still be plenty of fighting ahead for the u.s. military. for the second straight night, u.s. and british tomahawk cruise missiles blasted libyan air defense sites. three american b-2 stealth bombers flew from whiteman air
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force base in missouri more than 36 hours to libya and back to destroy libyan fighter aircraft bunkered next to a civilian air strip. and on nbc's "meet the press," joint chiefs chairman admiral mike mullen declared that moammar gadhafi's air force has been grounded. >> he hasn't had had any aircraft or helicopters flying the last couple days, so effectively that no-fly zone has been put in place. >> reporter: but a trail of burned out tanks, trucks and cars provided dramatic evidence that the u.s. military operation has escalated well beyond the no-fly zone. for the first time today, u.s. air force f-15s and 16s along with british and french fighters attacked libyan ground troops on the road to benghazi. the attack reportedly killed dozens of libyan military. [ gunfire ] as armed rebels celebrated, u.s. military officials denied the attack was to support anti-gadhafi forces but aimed, instead, at protecting civilians.
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>> actually, they were mechanized positions and they were advancing on benghazi. and so to protect the libyan people, we took them under attack. >> reporter: critics claim whatever you call it the u.s. is already in too deep, caught up in another war. >> we can say this is for humanitarian purposes, we can say it's a no-fly zone, but in reality what we have done is intervened in a libyan civil war. we now own a moral responsibility for the outcome. >> reporter: in fact, the nightmare scenario for the obama administration and u.s. military is that the current battle between libyan forces and the rebels drags on into a civil war and that gadhafi somehow survives. admiral mullin told nbc's david gregory, it's not out of the question. >> so the mission can be accomplished and gadhafi could remain in power? >> that is certainly potentially one outcome. >> reporter: despite consistent claims by the u.s. military that the u.s. is not intentionally targeting moammar gadhafi, there are conflicting reports tonight that gadhafi's compound in tripoli was hit by a coalition
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bomb. officials here at the pentagon insist that if it was a bomb it did not come from a u.s. aircraft. speculate that it could have come from a coalition aircraft. but damage was so minor that it could have been an accident. lester? >> nbc's jim miklaszewski at the pentagon for us tonight. jim, thanks. now to libya. jim maceda is in tripoli, which is part of a new no-fly zone in effect now. he has the view from there tonight. >> reporter: only days ago, pro-gadhafi forces were pushing relentlessly along this road and about to take the rebel capital of benghazi, but today this is what remained. bodies, among dozens of destroyed tanks and artillery pieces, some still smoldering. now, some 20 miles from benghazi, there were only rebels, all confident that with their newly found firepower they could beat gadhafi. >> we are against him completely. no one -- it's over. it is over, over, over.
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>> reporter: but gadhafi has other ideas. in a new voice recording, which aired on libyan tv today, he called the air strikes acts of terror and swore he'd defeat the invaders. "we are preparing ourselves for a long war in a vast land that you cannot fight on," he said. and his forces were on the attack again in rebel-held misrata with tank and sniper fire reportedly killing two. meanwhile, images of the dead and wounded, identified as casualties from the air strikes, appeared throughout the day on libyan tv. officials put the death toll at 64, just in the western half of the country. u.s. military officials deny any knowledge of civilian casualties but the issue, along with today's u.s. strike on gadhafi troops, has already raised questions about the purpose of the day-old no-fly zone. even amir moussa, the secretary-general of the arab league whose backing was critical in launching the military operation, expressed
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grave concern today about mounting casualties. "what has happened is different to the objectives we set," he said. "we need to be protecting civilians, not bombing more civilians." but with a mandate to use all necessary means to stop gadhafi's attacks, nato warplanes were in the skies again tonight over tripoli, triggering a hail of tracers and anti-aircraft fire, the city on a knife's edge. lester, at one point tonight we heard an explosion that seemed to come from the general direction of gadhafi's compound. and immediately, the rumors spread that he might have been hit. minutes later, we learned that the u.s. government had issued a short statement, colonel gadhafi is not a target. lester? >> jim maceda in tripoli. thanks. just who are these anti-gadhafi fighters the u.s. is in effect helping to support? our chief foreign correspondent richard engel has crossed from egypt into rebel-held territory
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in libya. he has that part of the story from tobruk tonight. >> reporter: as we crossed from egypt into eastern libya today it didn't look like the latest american military intervention in the middle east had just begun. the mood was calm. we easily passed through relaxed rebel checkpoints. a week ago, as gadhafi's forces were advancing, we watched people on this same road take down rebel flags, preparing to switch sides. now the flags are back up. but at a checkpoint on the outskirts of tobruk, it's obvious the rebels still need a great deal more help. many of the rebels were unarmed. those that were fired in the air, apparently without reason. there was a tank by the side of the road, but no one in it. i asked one of the rebels what he thought about the foreign military strikes. "they're wonderful," he said. "all of libya is happy. god willing, there will be more of them so we can go to gadhafi's palace in tripoli."
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there were more signs of that renewed confidence in central tobruk, a sleepy mediterranean port city. >> thank you for obama, because he is helping people in libya. >> reporter: traffic thronged the streets. the main market was full of boys selling eggs. women selling milk. a man fixing shoes. the people here believe they're now safe. there is a feeling of relief here, that finally help has come. until the u.s. and european air and missile strikes, the rebels were about to lose this war. now there's a hope they can turn it around. today was a major victory for the rebels, but this war won't be won with a few well-placed air strikes. rebels tell us, lester, they also need money, medicine and weapons if they're going to defeat gadhafi in any reasonable amount of time. >> richard, have the rebels coalesced under a specific
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command or individual? >> reporter: no. these would be what you'd call old-fashioned freedom fighters. they only have one goal, and that is to topple moammar gadhafi. they are a very mixed group, a ragtag army, if you will. some of them are unemployed people. they are students. islamists. and they believe the u.s. is firmly behind them to topple gadhafi, and they believe that this is a long-term relationship. >> richard engel in libya tonight. thanks. president obama remains in brazil, where he stayed quiet today on his decision to use force against gadhafi. chief white house correspondent chuck todd is traveling with the president in rio. hi, chuck. >> reporter: good evening, lester. well, the president has gotten two briefings today on the military progress in libya, one this morning and then one this afternoon. i just came out of a briefing with some senior national security officials, and they provided a little bit more information. the president called the king of
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jordan. part of that phone call was the hope of getting jordan to get involved in the enforcement of the no-fly zone in the next few days, which the administration believes they will be able to hand off this military campaign, which is a u.s.-run military campaign. they still believe they can hand that off to an international coalition to enforce the no-fly zone in the next days, not weeks. part of that phone call to the king of jordan, trying to recruit jordan to be a part of this. they want more arab nations involved. as for the arab league criticism of this no-fly zone and the idea that maybe it went beyond the united nations, the administration says that's not true, that that resolution, what they're doing, they are following the letter of that resolution and the any means necessary clause. and they also believe the arab league will pull back some of that criticism. but it's been a diplomatic tap dance today behind the scenes, lester. you've seen a lot of members of congress go out today. and the president's been criticized both left and right. some because -- arguing that he's taken too long.
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speaker boehner is upset that he hasn't done enough consultation with congress. and of course, some of the liberal members of the president's own party are upset that he started yet another military campaign. and to top it all off, here is a front page of the "o globo," the largest paper here in rio. they're trying to do outreach to brad'll. brazil. well, the headline is that the president comes to brazil and translated it says, "obama orders attack on libya," then it shows a picture of the president of the united states and the president of brazil toasting. so even here in latin america, he can't escape the story on libya, lester. >> chuck todd with the president tonight. thank you. here to share some military insight into all this now is retired u.s. army general barry mccaffrey, an nbc news analyst. let me ask you first, general, are we at war? this is obviously more than a no-fly zone patrol. is this war? >> it couldn't be. otherwise, the war powers act of 1973 would have been invoked. lester, what happened today was extremely good performance by the u.s. armed forces. clearly, we now dominate libyan airspace.
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that's a good thing. a good thing so that uk and france and u.s. fighter bombers can go take down his center of gravity, which is tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers. and they started that, which is even better news. finally, admiral mike mullen this morning essentially said we are also going to take down his logistics system. so, for the time being, i think we've stopped gadhafi in his tracks. >> are there limits to the use of air power under these circumstances? are you concerned that the use of ground troops has been taken off the table? >> well, i think probably unfortunate we said that up front but domestic politics required that. it's also clear to me that the air cap itself, i mean, uae will come in and qatar and possibly jordan with fighter interceptors. but you've got to go after his ability to dominate these urban areas. that's the tanks, the armored personnel carriers and the artillery.
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and that has started, and that can't be backed off. and it's not just benghazi in the east. it's also the other cities outside of tripoli. >> general mccaffrey, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us tonight. as we continue on "nightly news" on a sunday, just when it seems hard to believe there's anybody still alive in the rubble of northern japan, a stunning rescue to tell you about. and later, how the nuclear nightmare in japan is sparking new worries about a long-controversial nuclear plant here in the u.s.
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we're back now with the latest on the disaster in japan. nine days after the earthquake and tsunami, the death toll is nearly 8,500 and there are still nearly 13,000 people listed as missing. both numbers are expected to go even higher.
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and today we learned an incredible story of survival. an 80-year-old woman and her grandson were found alive in the wreckage of her home. they had been living on yogurt and water in the kitchen on the second floor. their rescue is giving new hope to those still searching for their loved ones. tonight, our ian williams reports from miyako, japan, one of the many devastated towns where the search is still going on. >> reporter: today, we reached miyako, or at least what's left of this once bustling fishing town. hundreds died here. soldiers were continuing to scour the rubble. turning over the battered shell of a car in search of bodies. this officer told me they had still not given up hope of finding people alive. neither had this man with two friends still missing. this had been their house. but it's been nine days since the quake and tsunami devastated this town.
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the search and rescue phase is winding down, replaced by a cleanup and relief operation, at least bringing a strange orderliness to the rubble-lined streets. survivors, wandering down paths cleared through the debris, still seem stunned by what had happened to their neighborhood. the cleanup here in miyako is progressing, but there's no power and there's no water in what remains of the town. survivors complain that very few basic supplies are getting through to them. "we don't have enough water, food or fuel," this man told me, huddled with other survivors around a makeshift heater beside their small shelter. while they cooked, a radio announcer gave a roll call of the missing, with descriptions of what they looked like and pleas from relatives, hoping their loved ones might still be traced, perhaps huddled in another shelter, in another battered part of the town that
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was once miyako. ian williams, nbc news, miyako. meantime, the desperate effort to stop the radiation disaster at that nuclear plant north of tokyo is showing some signs of progress tonight, but the nuclear threat is far from over and the newest evidence is in the food supply. nbc's robert bazell now with that part of the story. >> reporter: as they struggle to contain the radiation, engineers now have some kind of water supply going at all of the reactors. for now, water temperature and pressure is either holding steady or falling in each of them. >> translator: we've been making some sure and steady progress. >> reporter: but radiation at the site remains high. spreading contamination has been showing up in milk and some vegetables, first spinach, now other leafy vegetables. the government has banned all milk shipments from the area near the reactors. but vegetables with low levels of radiation have been found far from the site. and even if the health risks are considered low, there is growing concern. at a tokyo market we spoke with
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kyoko kanu, who told us she's worried about the effects of radiation on her children. rikuku fujiami has a different attitude, saying it's her duty to help the farmers. >> we have to support each other. >> reporter: farmers fear their produce will be rejected, not just in japan but throughout the world. this is a spinach farmer in ibaraki prefecture north of tokyo. >> translator: it's the planting season from now on. i don't know what's going to happen with this radiation, but we can't carry on as farmers. >> reporter: her concerns may be justified. we bought our own spinach in the tokyo market and tested it with our own radiation device. most batches have nothing above the background rate of 1 count per second. but one had a rate of two counts per second. that's well within safety standards but it's an indication that radiation has spread in the food supply into the market. and yet the real damage may be in perceptions. false rumors about all kinds of japanese food being unsafe are
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spreading around the world. >> translator: we wish to bring the nuclear power plant under control as quickly as possible so we can put a stop to the damages caused by these rumors. >> reporter: it could take weeks or even months to get the reactors under control to stop the radiation, the contamination, and the rumors. lester? >> robert bazell in japan. up next, the radiation risk at home. the new debate over a nuclear reactor amid one of the most densely populated regions in the world.
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as the disaster in japan unfolds, serious questions are being raised about the safety of nuclear power plants in the united states. a government report has found that the plant with the highest risk of core damage from an earthquake here is just about 35 miles from our studios here in new york city at the indian point plant. just today, america's energy secretary, steven chu, said the government needs to take a closer look at safety plans at indian point. nbc's ron allen went there to
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take a closer look. >> reporter: tucked along the hudson river in new york's suburbs, indian point's critics insist it never should have been so close to so many people. >> i understand the power and the benefit. i also understand the risk. and this plant in this proximity to new york city was never a good risk. >> reporter: in the 40 years since indian point was built, scientists have discovered it sits about a mile from two earthquake faults, which they say could trigger a 7.0 quake. a ten-mile evacuation zone would affect 450,000 people. a 50-mile zone, like the u.s. set in japan, would include some 20 million people, including all of new york city. >> i think some of that data is interpreted incorrectly. >> reporter: sean murray is mayor of buchanan, new york, home to indian point. he's also a nuclear technician there. >> we are convinced that an issue like what's occurring in japan can't occur in new york. >> reporter: most people we talked to say it's a quiet
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vilage and they're not worried about indian plant. >> that big tower there is part of the plant. >> reporter: margaret gibbs, a retired teacher's aide, lives about 100 yards from the plant. >> and we've lived here all our life, and we're not scared. >> reporter: all the scrutiny comes at a critical time for indian point and not just because of the japanese disaster. the plant's licenses that allow them to operate begin to expire in 2013, and a very contentious review process already is under way. activists insist japan is sending the u.s. a painful message. >> in japan before march 11th people said we'll never have a 9.0. we need to do better than that. we have a wakeup call here. >> reporter: indian point's operators insist it's safe, well protected from even a terrorist attack, and built to sustain the strongest earthquakes anticipated for the area. despite all of that, opponents say nature's unpredictability makes a nuclear plant here just not worth the risk.
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ron allen, nbc news, buchanan, new york. we are back in a moment with a troubling question a lot of people are asking after the events of the past several days.
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finally tonight, after the unrelenting and literally
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world-changing news of the past nine or so days, a question many of us have been asking, now perfectly captured on the cover of "newsweek" magazine out tomorrow, against the backdrop of a cresting wave, the words "apom lips now: tsunamis, earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns, revolutions, economies on the brink, what the blank is next?" we wish we could tell you but whatever it is we will be covering it on multiple fronts as we did tonight. but as we leave you on this first day of spring we wanted to lighten things up and look up at the sky last night. did you see it? we're talking about the promised supersized moon. here it is rising near the lincoln memorial, bigger and brighter than it's been in 18 years because it was closer to earth, all part of a cycle of our universe, one of mother nature's most spectacular performances, worth taking a special look at, perhaps during what may also be some of the darkest days around the world. that's nbc "nightly news" for this sunday. stay tuned for a special edition of "dateline."

NBC Nightly News
NBC March 20, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT

News/Business. The latest world and national news. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY U.s. 23, Gadhafi 18, Libya 13, Tripoli 7, New York 5, Benghazi 5, Nbc 4, Tokyo 4, Moammar Gadhafi 4, Brazil 4, Pentagon 3, Tobruk 3, Us 3, Japan 3, Richard Engel 2, United States 2, Jim Maceda 2, Mike Mullen 2, Nbc News 2, Chuck Todd 2
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